30 June 2007

To our Beloved MP's! We need your Help!

Urgent request! Our beloved MP's; we know we've bashed you at times because of all the wrong reasons; but now, there finally IS a calling for you!

Look at these images of something horrible I saw today, in a store window in Seef Mall!!!

Naked Mannequins! I can't believe we let this specific shop in Seef get away with such a horrible immoral act! Total indecency and 100% against our cultural and religious values!

MP's, we beg you; please do something about this! We all know that you're only good for THESE kind of decisions!!!

(and, it will also keep your mind of the real issues in Bahrain and stop you from making totally stupid decisions without studying their impacts on our Bahraini Society, and passing laws which end up hurting the people a lot more than they do any good!)

29 June 2007

They don't seem to like it too much..

If you aren't aware yet, a decision was passed a few days ago banning contractors from working their staff during the hours of 12pm and 4pm during the summer. With the soaring heat and temperatures reaching 50 degrees celcius at times, it was probably the only humane thing to do. Obviously, such a decision was frowned upon by the contractors. Some argued loss of productivity, some argued increased expenses to transport labourers to and from accomodation during these work hours, and some went to the extent of saying that millions of dinars will be lost.

Can you believe that?

Contractors; I understand your frustration; I know that instead of making net profits of so and so million this year, you might have to deal with a few less million (if that is really how much it is going to cost you). I understand that you will have to forget about buying that fourth house in the Carribean this year. I understand, and I sympathise with your cause, I truly do. I also wish I had a house in the Carribean.

Why should they (the labourers) matter? After all, these labourers are plain animals, they're the ones who never work, slack off as much as they can, and cost you a fortune in salaries! They shouldn't get a break; they should stay in the sun, and work to earn that fortune that you pay them every month! I'm sure every single one of you contractors was born without a single cent to your name, and had to leave your family and friends and travel to a distant land to work like an animal for someone else who showed you no mercy, so that you can make a few dollars to eat every day. So why should you give these labourers a chance to relax? You worked hard all your life in the sun, didn't you?

But somehow, walking a few meters from your house to your car gets you all hot and sweaty. And you complain when your air conditioner isn't on full blast, and the temperature in your home soars to around 23 or 24 degrees.



Read the article below; an extract from today's GDN newspaper.

Working hours 'to hit mega projects'

PRODUCTIVITY in the contracting sector will drop by 50 per cent if the government's decision to stop labourers from working for four hours in the afternoon in July and August is implemented, it was claimed yesterday.

In a statement issued by the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, it said the decision was impractical and would prove to be counter-productive.

"We are totally against it and will refuse to accept it," BCCI head of contractors' committee Samir Nass told the GDN yesterday.

You refuse to accept it?

"We have had a very lengthy discussion on the whole issue and are convinced that none of the contractors were consulted before the move was thought of," he said.

"This is going to be counter-productive, and will severely affect scores of infrastructure projects in Bahrain. The way it has been framed and is expected to be implemented is not right.

"There is an urgency in Bahrain these days to rapidly finish mega projects and these will be put off or delayed.

"The country cannot afford that. Productivity will fall by at least 50 per cent and that we can ill-afford."

Mr Nass said they were not only concerned about their profits, but about the impact the decision would have on Bahrain.

"Bahrain should not do it this way. No other country, even hotter than Bahrain, has such rules," he said.

"We are all concerned about our labour and do look after them. We will continue to do so. We want a fit and efficient labour force and we are concerned about them."

Mr Nass said no one cared to look at the technical aspect of the rule before it was drafted.

"There was no consultation with anyone," he said.

Of course there was no consultation; if it was left up to you, you would probably make them work 24 hours a day.
"What we want to know is how to transport the labour to their camps far away in peak traffic and get them back to the work sites in time to resume work.

"By the time they reach their accommodation, it will be past 1pm and then they should again leave by 3pm.

"They will have less than two hours of so-called rest."

On the other hand, he said, if they are not taken to their accommodation at noon and made to rest at the site for four hours, they will be within their rights to demand overtime.

"This is not going to work out at all," said Mr Nass.

He said all other associated work would also stop and would affect the projects overall.

"If heat is the only consideration, one should stop work for that time at refineries, smelters, shipyards, garbage dumps and power stations where people have to work indoors at temperatures in excess of 55 degrees," said Mr Nass.

He said that the contractors's committee has written to the Labour Ministry on these issues.

"We demand an immediate explanation on what we should do. We cannot stop work and agree to these impractical suggestions," said Mr Nass.

The ban on work at construction and other outdoor sites from noon to 4pm in July and August was issued by Labour Minister Majeed Al Alawi on Monday.

It follows a decision taken at the Cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Only animals I see here are the contractors themselves
For more post on slave labour, maids etc, click here

28 June 2007

Transformers 2007

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I really didn't know how to feel when I first heard they were working on the movie. Transformers was my childhood. Growing up watching the cartoon, begging my parents to buy me the latest toys (I try to avoid using the word "dolls" here; they were so tough and manly), and everything else to do with transformers; from the school lunchpack, to the wall laser light show, to the stickers etc.

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Yes, Transformers pretty much defined my childhood phase. And as I grew and stopped watching them, I was left with nice memories. So now comes the movie, and I quivered to think how they can possibly destroy what used to be such an amazing childhood experience for me. To ruin what was an absolute joy to look forward to every evening (on Aramco Channel 3, that is), as i've seen what has been done to some classic cartoons or stories through their movie adaptations.

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So here I am dreading it.

And since the trailer and movie posters came out, I tried so hard to avoid seeing them. And a few days ago, a friend told me how great this movie would be.

"What makes you think that?" I asked.

"I just watched the trailer! It's AMAZING!" And he kept going on for a few minutes about how great it looked and how advanced the graphics were and how it all looked like it was going to live up to everyone's benchmark of what makes an amazing Transformers movie, which, if to be judged by someone like me, were pretty high.

So here I am, hand on the mouse shivering, facing the YouTube.com main page, with the search box populated with "transformers trailer".

Pointer is on the search button...

So I decide to suck it up, and click...

A few minutes later, i'm actually pretty pleased! It's directed by Michael Bay, produced by Speilberg, with Lucas behind the effects; I had no idea they were working on the project either. So, looks like were gonna have a good one on our hands here (and thats probably an understatement)! Judging by the way it looked from the trailer, I think i'm going to be one of those people lining up to get a ticket on the first day the movie comes out!

I'll let you know when it happens ;)

Nothing is Certain but Death and Taxes

The above phrase, mentioned by a number of authors during the course of history, was inscribed in the form we are most familiar with; "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes", by Benjamin Franklin in 1817.

And yet for a while, those of us living in the GCC were under the rosy impression that we had managed to evade one of the two, completely escaping the terrible grip of taxes. But Franklin's quote rose to the light to promote its truth, and suddenly the tax-haven that is the GCC is seeing that dirty three letter word creep up slowly on us.

It couldn't have lasted for ever though. Any society that expects to grow and keep up with the rest of the world probably cannot survive for too long without taxes; Taxes provide revenue for the government to invest in the infrastructure, the enforcement of law and order, and so on. Taxation is needed to redistribute funds around a country, moving money from the hands of the rich, and providing funds for the poor, in order to have a more balanced society. Taxation can also be used to reprice certain goods in the market, to make certain items or services more or less desirable (higer taxes to cut down on tobacco sales, for example).

Dubai has decided to slap a toll-booth onto the Shaikh Zayed Road; the main highway through Dubai, also leading to both Abu Dhabi and Sharjah on the North and South, respectively. Now, if you live in Dubai, there is a pretty high chance that you use that highway, and probably on a daily basis.

Commuters are infurious; most, if not all, are against this 'indirect taxation', and some have even started to sign a petition requesting a delay on the decision. Sure, I can relate; no one likes a tax placed on them, as an individual. But take a look at the bigger picture here:

Tolls on driving through the highway mean:

- Less people driving through it, unless they really have to
- Less congestion on the road, due to the decreased number of drivers
- People might start car-pooling in order to divide toll costs between them;
- Leading again, to less congestion, and less pollution produced
- More money generated to provide for road repairs, expansions, etc

Doesn't seem like as much of a bad idea now does it? The truth is, taxes can benefit an economy if used in the right way. The rest of the world has taxes anyway, why should we be any different? Even if the government generates a comparatively greater income from oil exports, that supply won't last for ever. There are other exports, foreign investments, tourism projects, and all contributing towards a country's income, but tax is a necessary evil.

The Bahraini population has been complaining about the 1% unemployment deduction (ie, tax) that has been imposed on them this month. A country that previously knew nothing about taxes has been shocked to learn that, yes, some of your money can be involuntarily taken away from you. Yes, that is a law. No, it isn't stealing, and it probably isn't "haram" either, as some religious scholars have argued. Yet people have taken to the streets to demonstrate, one after the other writing articles of discontent in newspapers, magazines and other local publications.

But to no avail. Taxes are finally here; they are "as certain as death", and whether you like them or not (most probably not), you will have to learn to deal with them. We still haven't felt the real bite though - I don't think 4 Dirhams at a toll booth or 1% of your salary can even be considered a tax. It's more of a rough tickle, preparing you for the real slap in your face that will shortly follow.

VAT (Value Added Tax) on purchases in the UK is 17.5%. In France? 19.6%. In the United States, Federal Taxes on your income can go up to 35% depending on how much you earn (and this does not include State Tax, etc). When I used to work in Boston, I was paying almost 45% of my salary as tax. And those are just a few examples.

So right now, my fellow GCC citizens, we're still getting a free ride.

But we still have one problem.

In those countries, tax is collected, and every single cent is accounted for; payments are auditied, government official salaries are looked at, amounts in the tax funds are under constant surveillance, with verification of where every amount spent from them is spent, and why. Any amounts invested in the infrastructure, pay for the poor or homeless, unemployment, healthcare, etc is published. Tax-payers in those countries know exactly where their money is going.

That is our problem.

Do we know where our money is going?

27 June 2007

It gets very annoying...

... when it takes you almost 2 hours to drive home in an island thats just a little over 10km wide.

The traffic problem has gotten to the extent that, if nobody at the department of planning (oh wait, I forgot, we DON'T have a department of planning) does anything, it will soon start to reach catastrophic levels. And by catastrophic, I mean me having to buy a DVD player and screen for my car, to watch movies and TV shows as I wait to get home, instead of buying them for the normal reason everyone else buys them (ie, to show off).

So it started off yesterday, another beautifully painful day at work (beatiful since my salary had just been credited into my account, painful because I had to watch my account balance get shredded by various deductions for various purposes), and getting into my car at 5pm, my wife called and asked me to pick up something from Al Jazeera Supermarket. So here I am, leaving the Seef Area and driving over to Al Jazeera in Zinj for a particular product we used to enjoy when we used to live in the US. Distance travelled? Approx 3km.

Got to Al Jazeera, and was informed that they only stocked it at their Juffair branch. So I got into my car and drove over to Juffair, which is around 1.5km away.

The stopover in either Al Jazeera branches didn't take more than 5 minutes at the most. So now, i'm driving over the new Hidd Causeway into Muharraq, and decide to stop and fill up on some gas at the Jasmees Station which was around another 3km away. Took about 10 minutes to fill up, and now i'm on my way home, another 1.5km away.

IT WAS 6:55pm when I stepped in the house! That's 1 hour and 55 minutes to get home! Now, deducting the time spent in Al Jazeera (a total of about 10 minutes), and the time spent at the gas station (another 10), that leaves me with a little over 1 and a half hours to drive 9km. Thats an average speed of about SIX BLOODY KILOMETERS AND HOUR. That's the speed of an average walking human. Or maybe a fast ape.

I've obviously left out the details of what happened when I was in the car; but then again, I am trying to keep this blog profanity free, so its all for the better.

So, a solution, anyone?


Just a quick rough map to give you an idea of my route:

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25 June 2007

If I had a million dollars...

Something that has been on my mind for the past few days if not weeks, is going away and travelling somewhere. And I don't mean a short trip just to see a few sights or lie down in a hotel; no, I want to take a full fledged around the world trip, explore cities, see the suburbs, go downtown, mix with the people... Generally, whenever I do go away, I try to travel as light as possible, which makes it easy to go from place to place without chugging around tons worth of baggage.

I love travelling, seeing new people, places and cultures, and just mingling with everything, learning new languages etc.. And whenever i'm not travelling spot a travel magazine (in an office, at home, friends house, whatever), I steal it and run off to a corner to read about distant countries and cultures, and view photos of beaches, busy city streets, and rural mountain communities, and imagine myself there.

If I had a million dollars, I probably wouldn't be here in this office. Where would I be?

Well, I would probably be starting off my travels in Tokyo, Japan. And not only there; i'll be taking a long slow trip around the world, just discovering and seeing places. Here's my travel "wishlist":

- A week in Japan, probably 4 or 5 days in Tokyo and the rest somewhere in a rural area
- 12 days in China, say 4 days in each of Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai

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- A few nights in Moscow
- Fly over to to Prague, Czech Republic, and rent a car from there, driving through and stopping in Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Holland, Spain, and maybe Portgual too. (Already been to Holland, France and Italy, but they definately deserve another visit!)

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- A quick flight to London for a few nights (just because I miss London so much!)
- Visit Morocco, and then down to South Africa, maybe Kenya along the way since they have some really amazing natural habitats there...

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- Then over to the US; New York, Florida and California, and a quick visit to Mexico since i'm there.
- And a road trip through Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Chile

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I think that should cover a good 2 or 3 months at least. Time of my life.

Unfortunately, i'm not a millionaire. So perhaps I should stop thinking about it and get back to work.

Today's News Review

A quick look at todays news from our lovely GDN (gulf daily news) with a quick bit of commentary to follow:


Homes fraud probe vow

MANAMA: An investigation has been launched into allegations of corruption at the Muharraq Municipal Council, it emerged yesterday.

Constituents have accused council staff of swindling them out of money earmarked for a BD2.5 million housing renovation scheme.

Link to original story

Muharraq Municipal Council has lost 2.5 million that was supposed to be given to the poor. Bloody corruption everywhere. And this is just today's news. Remember the incidents with the GOSI, Gulf Air, etc etc?

So lets rethink here; wheres the 1% of my salary going? I probably wouldn't mind so much if I KNEW it was really going to the needy and unemployed, but things like this are exactly the reason no one agrees to that law!

Repatriation row over dead cyclist

THE sponsor of a Bangladeshi cyclist, who was killed in a horrific accident in Manama, is reportedly refusing to bear the cost of repatriating his body, it emerged yesterday.

Friends of 32-year-old handyman Foiz Ahmed told the GDN that the sponsor had allegedly even taken BD100 from them, because he wanted them to pay for other formalities. The sponsor is yet to resolve compensation, pending salaries (if any) and end-of-services benefits, say Bangladesh Embassy officials.

Link to original story

I really think this person should be made an example of, publicly humiliated, and forced to bear every last single fils to not only repatriate the body, but to pay the deceased's family any money that was due to him. A large number of people here take the issue of sponsoring someone for granted; they feel that they can bring them into the country, force them into slave labor, and totally ignore any responsibility when anything they didn't account for happens in the least. THEY'RE HUMAN for godsake, not cattle. You have a responsibility towards them and their family.

Come on, lets punish this guy very publicly so that every other person in this country realizes there are consequences to having responsibility towards sponsoring someone!

Fish deaths alert
By rasha al qahtani

A PROBE has been launched to discover why thousands of dead fish washed up on the shores of Sitra and Sanad over the last four days.

Samples of the fish have been taken to labs for further study and a report on the problem will be ready by next week, said Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife head Anwar Al Hariri.

Link to original story

Well there you go. There's the direct result of us burying the sea, reclaiming land, wiping out fashts, and constructing things where things should not be constructed! Way to go Bahrain! Keep up the top notch environmental work!


King wins Hilton's interview
LOS ANGELES: Veteran CNN newsman Larry King has won the race to secure the first post-prison interview with jailed socialite Paris Hilton, the global cable network confirmed.

Link to original story

Oh God, enough with the Paris Hilton stories already!

Nude bather held in Spain
A 22-year-old American man was arrested yesterday after an early morning naked bath in the historic Barcaccia fountain at the foot of Rome's Spanish Steps. The man stripped and bathed in the 17th century Baroque fountain in front of a crowd of tourists, before being led away by police, Italian news agency AGI news agency reported. He faces charges of committing an obscene act, it said.

Link to original story

Wahahahaaha... Now THAT'S news!


How many of our MPs can use a computer?
By Amira Al Hussaini

IT was with bewilderment that I read reports that our esteemed MPs are drafting a request to grant themselves a laptop each.

All of a sudden our 40 elected members of parliament want to catch up with technology and have toys, which cost an average of BD600 each, at their disposal.

Link to original story

Really? Are they really getting free laptops? A few points here; these laptops are probably going to be thrown at home and used by their children to chat on MSN Messenger and check their email, since I really doubt Adel Al Maawda or most of the others have any idea on how to turn a laptop on. Secondly, don't they get enough pay that they can't afford their own laptops? Or cars for that matter, which they've also been given for free. Oh wait wait, is that where my 1% is going???


Wake up time

I am yet another Goan among thousands of others who wonder why Air India has started a direct flight to Mangalore and not to Goa.

The reply given by Air India Manager to Mrs D Fernandes' letter (GDN, June 18) is totally unsatisfactory. If Air India really wants to cater to the Goan community then even a flight to Goa with a stopover in Mangalore would be fruitful.

Come on Air India, wake up!

This being the peak season, and as pointed out by Mrs D Fernandes, many families with little children travel and face unnecessary inconveniences at the airports in India.

Link to original story

Umm, yeah, well, its a business decision not a "convenience" decision! I'm sure they would have organized one if they found it profitable - and they obviously don't, so you can ask for it nicely, but if you don't get it, don't get upset (Unless you and everyone else are willing to pay double the price or so for a direct flight to Goa, and my assumption is, you probably wouldn't). You know what, I want a direct flight to Los Angeles, but i'm not getting that! A short boy wants to be tall. A fat women wants to be thin! We don't all get what we want. So please, just be quiet. Good boy.

Sad but true... .

THERE are two things that will never change in Bahrain or the Middle East. People will always throw their garbage out of their car's windows. It is part of the culture. The parents do it, so the children will also do it .

People will not use their car's indicators because they are not taught to use them in the Middle East, and they are not prosecuted for not using them.

The average road user, including the traffic police in Bahrain, do not know how to use them.

Link to original story

I beg to differ... Not everyone throws garbage out of the window, although the people who do need to be publicly flogged. And no, its not part of the culture. Its part of the culture of people who haven't been taught any respect or manners by their family, and that extends to throwing garbage in the streets, not picking up your tray after eating in a restaurant, etc. Fines need to be given out, but obviously our very active Traffic Department really doesn't enforce those kind of things.

Anyway, about traffic indicators? We know how to use them! We are just to arrogant and lazy to do so, and the few centimeters we have to stretch our fingers to push the indicator left or right just takes too much effort. I'm sure we wouldn't find it as much effort if we compared it to having to wait a good hour and a half in the street under the hot sun waiting for the traffic warden to arrive after we crash into someone! USE YOUR INDICATORS PEOPLE!

Give more respect to workers

BAHRAIN is trying to fight back at the US State Department's report blacklisting the country for not doing enough to stop human trafficking.

Link to original story

Why are you fighting back! Instead of fighting the report and denying the accusations, go out there and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Just another way of running away from responsibility...

That's all for today!

24 June 2007

That pesky 1%

Well, i've avoided writing about the subject for a while now, but as everyone's salary date moves closer, I can hear it being talked about it all over the bank I work in; by the water cooler, in the hallways, in the office etc. And people are not happy - i'm assuming a similar situation is happening in other companies, banks, ministries etc.

So what's the deal here? Well, if you're not aware already, there has been a national program created to deal with unemployment in the country. The unemployed get paid a salary, or lets say subsidy, for a certain period until they are able to secure a job. All well and dandy. Now, the terms of financing this program include taxing all employees in Bahrain 1% from their gross salary. Yes, tax. "But we're a tax free haven" I hear you say? Well, its not being labelled as tax though, is it. It's labelled as "Insurance against Unemployment". And its only 1% anyway, so it shouldn't 'really' be such a big deal.

Of course, with the increasing selling price of oil, and the mentioned profits made from the Formula One event 2 months ago, there must be a lot of extra revenue generated for Bahrain, so you would assume that there would be enough to cover such a program without having to reach into employees' pockets and pull out 1% of their salaries. Obviously, this is wrong, because the country has sooo many expenses, such as the cost of constructing buildings with huge fans (to think that they are supposed to generate power from natural sources like wind, wouldn't it have been more appropriate to use solar panels? Sorry, i'm veering off-topic), wiping out full fashts, buying new helicopters for our tremendously active army, and building incredible highways to offset the increasing amount of traffic we seem to be getting in this country. Oh, and of course providing enough energy to make sure us greedy citizens get all the power and water we need so that we never have to endure any power cuts.

Well, aside from my sarcastic tone, why is it such a fuss? It's only 1%? And it does go towards helping the unemployed; definately a noble cause. Lets take a quick look at why this is the wrong way to go about it. First, no one has any idea where this money is going to go. There hasn't been any verified auditing done on amounts which have previously been taken out of our salaries (ie, Social Insurance), and we all saw the results a few years ago when it was reported that the GOSI was actually losing money. So where was this money going? Invested in the wrong way? Stolen? Or did someone just lose most of it on the way to the bank? Well, either way, we have no idea where our 5% GOSI deduction is going, and we're not even sure if we will actually recieve any benefit out of it when we decide to retire. So when the decision was given to increase our total GOSI deduction to 6% a few months ago, most people didn't take it very lightly. Add to that another 1% for the unemployed, which isn't even going through the GOSI this time, meaning harldy any record keeping, and people's blood starts to boil. Ironically enough, the deduction starts in a June, so you're boiling both figuratively and literally.

So, we have no idea where our money is going. Second of all, none of us actually consented to this deduction. It's not exactly a big amount, but if its ok for 1% to be deducted "for the humanitarian purpose of giving the unemployed an income", then it wouldn't be a problem to take an extra half a percent later, to cover the increasing costs of financing the unemployed. Or another 1%... Or another 2%... And so on.

Another thing, let's take a look at the people exempt from this deduction. First of all; the military. Now why on earth would the military be exempt? As a reward for their heroic acts towards keeping Bahrain free from hostile take-over (speaking of which, when was the last time the Bahraini army participated in a war?) What makes them different from any other employees (besides the fact that a large percentage of them aren't of Bahraini nationality?).

Second group of exempt people; ministers. Wow. Why would the ministers be exempt? After hearing the passion in the speech that the Minister of the Dept of Labour gave a few days ago, and how strongly he was arguing in favor of the deduction, you would believe that he would eagerly increase his contribution just because of how strongly he believed in the cause. So to turn around and say that ministers are exempt.. Hmm.. There's something fishy going on here.

Third group of people who are exempt from paying the 1%, our beloved council of representatives, our parliment, the people who actually came out with this decision. It all makes total sense now.

What is also amusing about this is the events that have actually led to this. A few months ago, inflationary measured caused a rise in prices of a number of day-to-day items. The people retaliated by requesting higher salaries in order to overcome the inflation. The government/parliment or whatever side comes out with these bodiless comments states that they will ensure that salaries are increased. A few months later, their GOSI deductions are increased by 1%. A while later, another 1% deduction is introduced to combat unemployment. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

I personally have no problem with 1% being taken out of my salary to help the unemployed. I don't mind having 5% taken out of my salary to help the unemployed and the poor. I don't even mind 20% instead of the current 6% GOSI being deducted from my salary if it really is going to contribute back to me when I retire and help me lead a semi-comfortable life. But with the amount of trust I have into where my money is going, I would rather keep my money, and throw it into a saving account or some sort of investment, because that would generate a real return for me. I don't know whether my GOSI deductions are being used to generate returns in low yield investments, high risky ones, or whether they've already been lost. I don't know whether my GOSI deductions are even being used by someone to buy a new car, or build a huge mansion for someone. With the amount of trust I have into where my money is going, I don't think i'm comfortable with having more than 0% taken out of my account. Leave my money alone!

21 June 2007

Home of Motorsports in the Middle East

Bahrain; a great country, filled with great developments, and the first country in the region to build a Formula One circuit and host the Formula One races. Coupled with that, it also promotes itself as the home of motorsports in the Middle-East, focusing on all types of races, whether Formula BMW, Thunder Arabia races, Drag Racing, Rally or any of the multitude of available types of motorsports. A large part of the country's residents are also avid car enthusiasts, and you see this on any regular day, with people taking excellent care of their cars, putting in their money and effort to keep them in top shape and customize them the way they want, with many of the motorsport clubs organizing monthly and annual car shows and events. Infact, the Crown Prince himself is an avid car enthusiast with an astonishing car collection. In addition, due to a highly unefficient (and almost non-existent) public transportation system, cars have been pretty much the only way to get around, and us Bahraini's have always had a passion for them.

You would assume that the whole infrastructure of the country is set to accomodate for a country with such a passion for vehicles and motorsports.

But then, you would be wrong.

Why is it the traffic department (Ministry of Tansportation), is totally oblivious to the above? The traffic wardens sent out to monitor the roads, keep them safe, and watch out for violations obviously have no clue about what this country is aiming to be.

Car modification is an art, and besides the history its had in our country, it has also been catapulted to fame by shows such as "Pimp my Ride", movies like "The Fast & the Furious", as well as its depiction in mass-media including music videos, magazines, etc

With the love of cars, bikes, trucks etc in Bahrain, also comes a large portion of the people that love to modify their vehicles. Obviously there are some allowed aspects to car modification, while others are deemed prohibited, and these vary from country to country. With a country such as Bahrain, which hosts many a motorsport event, and tries to encourage more and more people to get into one of these many events around the kingdom, you would expect a reasonable state of tolerance as to the rules that govern vehicle modification. Obviously not those that decrease safety features or, for example, produce more pollution etc etc. But in general, there should be an at least semi-open leniance towards some of these modifications.

But not in Bahrain.

A friend installed a new front bumper on his vehicle. Nothing to affect his engine, emissions, speed, safety, or anything else besides the look of the vehicle. So, a new front bumper, which made his car stand out a little more. He was ecstatic with his new car-mod.

A few days later, he is stopped by a traffic warden who issued him a ticket for modifying his car with a "non-factory spec" bumper.


Another case in point; another friend purchased a vehicle which came with window tint. That's straight from the factory; the actual glass was tinted, it wasn't covered with tint-film. And yes, again, he was stopped and actually given a ticket for it, even after explaining that this tint was one of the stock car specification. But obviously this wasn't the traffic wardens problem.

Ok... Another situation:

I took my car for annual inspection. Now I have an exhaust system that is a little louder than usual. Went to get it inspected, passed with flying colors, got my car registered and went on my merry old way. A few days later, i'm given a ticket because my exhaust is too loud - and not only that, but the traffic warden almost had my car confiscated! Why the hell would you pass a car during the regular inspection then?

The list of examples goes on and on.. Lets not spend too much time discussing how the traffic wardens in the above situations came to the conclusion that these, in any shape or form, would constitute a traffic offence, since i'm assuming that to be hired by the traffic department you need to either pass a test that proves you have an IQ below 50, or you have absolutely no knowledge of the type of vehicles and cars that are being driven around the country. The traffic department, and the traffic wardens in general, seem to as a whole have no idea about the different models and types of cars made. Wouldn't you assume that this comes as part of the job? Case in point:

A friend bought a special edition jeep recently. Straight out of the factory, this jeep came with modified suspension, larger wheels, and a more aggressive stance as compared with the normal edition of this particular vehicle. And yes, as you would expect from our lovely traffic department, his car was confiscated a week later for being "lowered". He had to go to their HQ and argue with a number of people before being forced to go back to the dealership where he bought the vehicle from, and obtain an official letter from them stating that the car was originally lowered by the factory! Needless to say, when his car was released the next day, it wasn't released with a big "oh we're so sorry we caused you all this trouble". They actually couldn't care less, and the person responsible for bringing his car out looked at him as if he was a criminal who just got bail.

Now even though I can go on and on about the lack of common sense, or even common knowledge that you would expect a traffic department in any average country to have, I need to discuss another issue. Let the car modification subject slide for now as it comparitively is a very small issue.

In general, a traffic department is supposedly there to regulate traffic movement and keep the roads safe. Our traffic department, on the other hand, is there to regulate cash flow into the department. Traffic wardens are spread out around the country, and while the a few here and there are seen controlling traffic flow (and not very efficiently, might I add), the majority are distributed around the land looking for traffic offences to give out to fulfil their quota. Anything from the odd "Your front bumper is not factory spec", and "you were driving too slow on the highway" (yes it has happened), to the usual "your window tint is too dark" and "your exhaust is too loud". So they're giving out tickets on the most trivial issues; that's just to keep everyone in check and keep the country safer for people to drive, right?


I am seeing more and more horrible car accidents, serious injuries and increasing deaths in the newspaper day by day. Shouldn't that be a very obvious sign that the traffic department is failing in their most primary duty?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

20 June 2007

Steady Growth

Steady growth... Or the lack of it, in fact. Steady growth is characterized by a stable economy that is doing well in general, growing at a reasonable rate that doesn’t really bring any unexpected surprises or overly enormous amounts of wealth pouring in. What steady growth does bring is a solid forecast of what probably will and won’t happen in an economy, upcoming developments, and no shocks or surprises in general.

But when I see the current levels of growth in the gulf region right now, it starts to get a little bit scary. Growth levels have become so incredibly intense, developments emerging one after the other, a continuously expanding flow of money and capital, foreign investment blowing up in the region, and so on. During the past ten years, I’ve seen areas which used to be completely barren turn into major commercial centers, full rural roads transformed into busy downtown streets, and non-impressive skylines develop into silhouettes of huge buildings, monuments and skyscrapers. The amount of money being invested in the region has started to reach alarming levels; in just the past five years alone, I’ve seen some people I know go from living paycheck to paycheck, to driving Ferrari’s and owning private property, with a lot of cash to spare. I’ve seen companies reach growth levels of over 800% percent, and these aren’t small companies that only need small amounts of capital to grow. No. These are companies that originally started off with a few million dollars worth of capital in the first place.

Everywhere you go there seems to be some sort of construction, some sort of magnificent development, land being reclaimed to build multi-million ideas, or new investments bringing in the most unexpected projects. And its also bringing a lot of good for a lot of people. Just walk around one of the gulf cities on a typical day; people are getting a lot richer and it shows, whether it’s the Bentley and BMW cars that stand out, or the people eating out every day at the finest restaurants, or the huge oversized luxury houses that are being bought, it shows. Sure, we had rich people 10 or 20 years ago, but they weren’t near as many as there are now.

So this must be a good thing right? Well, sure, if you’re on the receiving end of it. But expand your stream of thinking and let’s look at this on a larger scale. Sure, the people involved in the investments, real estate, and any of the other fields that seem to be generating unbelievable cash flows are better off. But not all of them. And these people are only a small percentage of the population of this region. Sure, the benefits extend to other parts of the economy, such as restaurants selling more, more money so the airline companies benefit from excess travel, etc. But again, this doesn’t affect everyone. What it does do, however, is bring inflation with it. Extreme amounts of it. And its affecting everyone else who isn’t able to increase their own cash flows. So in essence, while some people are getting richer, a lot of people are actually getting poorer, and the gap is widening. And unfortunately, most institutions, companies, and even governments etc are more concerned with the former and have their needs on mind, as they will be the ones to help move the economy forward, bringing even greater growth and development, etc.

So now the poor (and now poorer) are frustrated in being a system where whatever efforts or actions taken to help them out are not completely adequate, and even with those, the gap is still widening.

But that’s not the only problem.

I sit and ask, how long can this almost dreamlike growth be sustained? Another two years? Five? Maybe 10? There will be a point when certain factors start to crumble, and its not that I don’t have faith in the current economy, its just that the normal rules of economics and history tell you that something will happen, and it just might come all crashing down. And who will be the victim here?

Sure, those who benefited from the whole surge will lose some money, lose some assets, their property values will probably drop. They will get hurt. But more so, the poor will get it the worst. A dying economy with over inflated prices and a below average cash flow just might make it worse.

The growth is unbelievable at the moment; there are investments everywhere; just take a look at some of the headlines in the local newspapers, just to get an idea of how much money is going through the region:

Dubailand taking shape
DUBAI: Widely touted as the Middle East's very own Orlando, Dubailand, a cluster of mega-billion-dollar projects, is gradually emerging across the desert sands of the booming emirate.

$620 million raised by Investcorp
DUBAI: Bahrain-based Investcorp has raised $620 million for its first private equity fund for investors outside the Gulf Arab region, the investment bank said yesterday.

Dubai to invest Dh300 billion: Shaikh Ahmed
DUBAI — Dubai is poised to change the face of global aviation and the logistics industry with investments of more than Dh300 billion over the coming decade, said Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of DCA and Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airlines and Group.

The World's $5b Oqyana to begin construction next year
DUBAI — Construction on the $5 billion Oqyana World First development on 20 of "The World" manmade islands will start in summer 2008, the company's COO, Wadad Al Suwahyeh, confirmed, and will take three years to complete.

Airbus scores on $22b GCC ordersDUBAI — Propelled by $22 billion aircraft orders from three Gulf carriers, troubled aircraft maker Airbus SAS pulled out all the stops to claim star billing at Paris Air Show on the first day with total orders worth $30 billion — outselling its US rival Boeing Co. which could only bag $4.42 billion in new orders

And by the way, this is just a small pick from just ONE day of news. Imagine the amount of money flowing through the GCC economy every month, or every year? And besides those, think of the projects blowing up all around us? The Bahrain Financial Harbor, built as the Financial Hub for the region to compete on an international scale, Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world, the unbelievable number of new investment companies, tourism projects, etc? It’s astounding and the growth is almost dreamlike.

But you never know when it could happen. We need to start being careful before we get hit by a really extreme collapse of one factor of the system, and when that does happen it will escalate and the effects will quickly be felt hard within the region. And as the expats, investors and global companies that were here when the money was here start to leave, all the buildings, tourist projects, investments and construction left will leave us with a huge ghost town. The bubble won’t continue to grow; it’s not a scenario that’s too far from reality.

17 June 2007

Cyclone Gonu in Bahrain

Not a long post by any means; the thing is after Gonu hit Oman, there was a bit of uncertainity as to the path it will follow. Will it go past UAE and then turn east to Iran? Will it continue North and hit Qatar and Bahrain? Some said yes, some said no, some said maybe.

Anyway, I was discussing this with a friend a few days ago; I said "There is the possibility that Gonu will hit us".

Just a possibility, but I mentioned it was there, to which he replied "No, it won't"

Me: "There's that chance, how do you know"

Him: "I just know, there is no possible way it will hit us"

Me: "Come on, there's always a small chance of it happening, and what do you know, you don't work in the forecast"

Him: "No, you don't understand. We wont get hit because Bahrain is just THAT boring. We wont get anything as exciting as that happening here!"

Needless to say I couldn't stop laughing for the next 20 minutes

Above the Law

I read this in today's GDN (probably Bahrain's leading English newspaper). This comes from the reader letters section:

Ugly behaviour!
DEAR Yellow Humvee owner, how come I always see your vehicle, I am sure there is only one, it is so ugly, parked illegally?

I have yet to see it properly parked. It is either parked in a handicap reserved spot (Fuddruckers in Adliya), in a no parking zone (i.e. Al Jazira in Zinj) or like I have just seen it at Bahrain Mall almost trying to go through the doors.

Does it come as a mandatory behaviour when you buy an ugly truck like that?

Normand Lachance

Fair enough; I understand this persons frustration. But there is a bit of a bigger issue here, since a LOT of the people living here seem to have the same attitude as the driver of that Humvee. You see it everyday, people parking illegally and blocking the traffic flow of the people behind them, drivers going down the wrong way in a one-way street and then screaming or honking at anyone who comes out their way, speeding way over the speed limit even in the smallest roads with the risk of hitting someone by accident, overtaking the wrong way etc etc.

Sure, a lot of us have driven that way one time or the other; I personally drove like a total jackass for the first year or two after getting my drivers license. It was my "getting familiar with the roads" stage (well, thats what I like to call it anyway. But since then i've grown up, i've seen the nuisance it causes other people, and i've seen some of the dangers as well. I would like to think a lot of the people who start driving understand this after a while of driving.

But no! Some of the people who do this are either fully grown, fathers, or people who have been obviously behind the drivers seat for years. Why do you have to act like such jackasses? Why do people in this part of the world think they own the road, or that they have a sort of "do whatever the hell you want with no sympathy or consideration for other drivers" pass?

Just today morning on my way to work, I drove down a one way road through a little alley. Now when I almost reached the exit of the alley, someone drove into it and faced me. He was obviously driving the wrong way, and all he had to do was reverse his car the odd 2 meters or so, so that I can leave. But he just waited there for me to reverse all the way back out of the alley so that he can get his way!

After a few seconds, he rolled down his window to which I thought he was going to apologize, but no, he started shouting at me to move because he was late for work.

A few points here;
1- YOU'RE late for work, its your problem, leave earlier next time!
2- YOU'RE going down the wrong way, and I have the right of way, so stop blocking the road!
3- EVEN IF neither of us had the right of way, your backing up 2 meters is a lot easier than me backing up a good 30 meters or so down a tight alley!

And they believe they are god's gift to the roads. Mr White Cressida Plate No 14555, if you're reading this, you aren't!

We are not above the law guys. Unfortunately this behavior doesn't apply just to road laws and manners. You see it all over our community; the woman who walks into the bank to withdraw some cash, and at seeing a queue of 10 or 20 people or so decides to bypass them and go directly to the counter and demand to be served before anyone else? Or how about the customer who walks into a busy restaurant, and at being told there are no tables starts shouting at the waitress demanding to be seated? I've seen it, and I continue to see it.

We need to change this behavior; its hindering a lot of development, and is slowly promoting hate between one another. Now when i'm driving in my car, based on the road environment we have, I consider all other cars enemies that are there to take my spot. All customers in a bank other than me are adversaries and I need to get served before them. And so on and so on...

It would be nice if we try to consider other people before acting on our own selfish needs. The world does not revolve around each and every single one of us!

14 June 2007

Useful News

Reading the news every morning, watching it on TV, or hearing it on the radio used to have a purpose some time ago. You keep yourself updated with major issues and important topics going on around the world; but it seems as if this has changed. I guess people try to take anything and blow it up into a news story now - here are a few bits and pieces to give you an idea:

Angry squirrel finished off by crutch
Wed Jun 13, 11:00 PM ET

BERLIN - An unusually aggressive squirrel attacked three people in a German town before its last victim finished it off with a crutch, police said Wednesday.

The rodent jumped through a living-room window in Passau, on the Austrian border, on Tuesday and bit its first victim. With the squirrel hanging on by its teeth, the woman ran out into the street, where she managed to shake the animal off.

The squirrel then bit a builder before fleeing into a nearby garden, where it bit a 72-year-old man who eventually killed it with his crutch, police said.

The dead animal was to be tested for rabies.

I'm sure there were tears all around as the squirrel caught its last breath under the "deadly" crutch. Here's an extra bit of laughs; this was actually in "most popular news". Anyway, lets look at some more, something a little more local from the Gulf Daily News:
Mall car park row pair drop charges
NO. 86 Thursday 14th June 2007

AN angry driver came to blows with a security guard after his car was locked in a mall car park late at night.

The Saudi driver parked his car in the Yateem Centre car park in Manama, then went out for the evening.

By the time he returned, after midnight, the car park barriers were down and the guard refused to let him take his car.

They came to blows and both ended up in a police station, a Public Prosecution spokesman said yesterday.

He said police referred the case to the prosecution, but once there the two men agreed to drop allegations of assault, which each had levelled at the other.

I don't know who i'm most disappointed with, the two featured in this story or the article writer who actually thought it was news worthy. And the next article? Well this is just funny (its suprising how stupid some people can be):
Man Tries Escaping Cops By Dangling 23 Stories Up

(CBS) BRONX An astonishing attempted escape from the police in the Bronx Wednesday morning left a suspect dangling from the side of a high-rise, 23 stories above the ground.

It wasn't a typical sighting for New Yorkers walking outside or living across from the Soundview apartment tower.

"I started to think, 'What's wrong? Is he trying to commit suicide or something?'" said Alex Morales, who, along with his wife Patricia witnessed the suspect's crazy antics.

But Francisco Correra Jr. wasn't trying to kill himself. Instead he was trying to escape from police investigating an assault complaint.

"His foot was on the ledge of the window and he was hanging on a childproof bar," Patricia Morales said.

The Morales' were so taken aback by the scene the pulled out their home video camera and recorded the incident from their home across the street.

The drama actually began though several blocks from the building. Police got a call that Correra had assaulted his father and violated an order of protection. They tracked him down to the roof of that building. (

"The police were on top of the roof and trying to convince him to come in. But then he started to scale down to the 22nd floor. But it looks like he got a little panicked and he scaled back to the 23rd floor," Alex Morales said.

Finally. police were able to break through the window guard on the 23rd floor, and pulled Correra in.

"Honestly, I was thinking today was going to be his last day on this earth because I didn't see how he could hold on that long," Patricia said.

Correra, now under arrest, has been charged with assault and violating an order of protection.

Well, he obviously didn't think his plan through.